At a Glance


  • STEM
  • Biology

Instructional Level

  • College & CEGEP
  • University

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Group
  • Whole Class

Type of Tasks

  • Analyzing
  • Reading
  • Taking a quiz & test

Technical Details

Useful Technologies

  • Laptops

Class size

  • Small (20-49)


  • Brief segment of class period (< 20 mins)

Instructional Purpose

  • Application & knowledge building
  • Assessment & knowledge refinement


In this activity, students must correctly pair nucleotides together based on biochemical structure and bonding patterns. Students are required to form a two-stranded DNA molecule composed of 8 nucleotides.

Students begin by doing pre-class readings and watching videos through Moodle related to nucleic acids, and also perform a quiz to test what they have learned.

In class, the instructor reviews nucleic acids and answers any student questions related to the material. During this time, students perform a clicker-like quiz on Moodle to test that they have understood the key concepts. The recommended time for reviewing the material and doing the quiz is 35 minutes.

The rest of the class time is devoted to the activity. Students get into their pre-assigned groups of 4. Using the nucleic acid activity PowerPoint, groups must orient and correctly pair nucleotides together to form an accurate, double-stranded DNA chain.

While groups are working on this pairing activity, they also answer questions through Moodle that encourage them to think more deeply about why nucleotides pair the way they do (e.g., chemical bonding, nucleotide structure, etc.).

There are extra activities for groups that finish early. Alternatively, these extra activities can be accessed by students outside of class (through Moodle) as additional practice post-class.

Finally, the instructor wraps up the class with a review of the activity, what students should have learned from it, and how the activity illustrates key concepts that students will require later on in the course.

Instructional Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Define how and why nucleotides bond in particular patterns using their knowledge of base pairing rules and the antiparallel directionality of DNA
  • Describe the different nucleotide subunits (nitrogenous bases, phosphate groups, deoxyribose sugars), their function, and their structure

Workflow & Materials


Activity Workflow

View on CourseFlow

Contributor's Notes

Karl Laroche

Karl Laroche

Vanier College, Montreal, QC


This is an application-based activity that draws upon lesson material students have seen in previous classes. By applying what they know, it helps students to build a better base of nucleic acid knowledge that they will rely upon for lessons later in the semester dealing with cell division and genetics.

  • Keeping students focused and on track time-wise.
  • Some students come to class unprepared (i.e., have not read the material beforehand).
  • Students can end up spending a lot of time trying to figure out the 3D orientation of the nucleic acids in a 2D workspace (not necessary to know 3D orientation for the activity).
  • Instructor and TAs/student helpers can help to keep groups focused.
  • Having students in pre-assigned groups (instead of alone) ensures that even if a student comes to class unprepared, they are usually in a group that can help them to perform the activity.
  • Instructor and student helpers can guide groups away from the 2D/3D pitfall if they see them struggling with the orientation of their DNA chain.
  • Encourage students to determine 5′-3′ directionality in the image they are working with since their are no questions that specifically get them to think about this.


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